The importance of the upcoming European Parliament elections from 23 – 26 May 2019 can’t be overstated. Brexit has turned everybody off the conversation about Europe, and caused years of policy paralysis. We should have been making things better for Europe’s citizens, but our unelected EU ‘leaders’ have shown poor leadership abilities, while the fascists have risen on Europe’s right flank. Time for action, and fast. Here are 5 quick wins for Europe, to make the EU relevant, inspiring and useful…
Let’s make the EU more democratic
The names Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk have never appeared on a ballot paper, yet they seem to be running the EU. Why? What is the point of the European Parliament? Why should we bother to vote in May? The EU needs to answer these questions, and urgently. And don’t say ‘The information is there if you look for it.’ It’s up to the EU to communicate to its citizens why it works as it does, how it’s changing to reflect the views of the populace, and what a more democratic European Union will look like.
Let’s build the European Union of Hemp
The United States is leading the way, with the recent legalisation of industrial hemp, added to many states’ embrace of the medicinal and recreational potential of hemp’s sister, cannabis. This is very positive and very welcome. Europe needs to look to America to appreciate the potential of hemp for reducing climate change, for displacing multiple harmful products, for medical treatments and for a safer alternative to alcohol. By legalizing hemp and cannabis at federal EU level, individual member states can develop policies under the protection of the EU.
Let’s make Europe lead the fight against climate change
Hemp is one powerful tool that Europe can deploy to stop climate change. Let’s go further with some big EU ideas. We must tackle livestock subsidies, and stop funding animal production of greenhouse gases. We must ensure that our fisheries become sustainable sources of protein for Europe. We should set a date for banning diesel cars in the EU, embrace and develop the next generation of electric/hydrogen vehicles. We need to ensure commercial aviation cuts its emissions, while expanding fast rail and other less harmful ways to travel within Europe. A rail tunnel from Ireland to France would be awesome. Why can’t we dream big and inspire the next generation?
Let’s ban monarchies, make Europe abide by the ideals of equality and liberty
One good thing about the UK’s departure from the EU is that the EU will then have one less monarchy. It’s pretty disgusting to realise that there will still be six: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. Europe needs to enforce liberal, republican ideals both at high level and at individual member state level. There is no place for monarchies in 21st century Europe. Let’s work to abolish all monarchies within the European Union.
Let’s tell the European story better
Let’s face it, Europe rocks! The European Union has prevented World War 3 by fostering cooperation and fraternity among nations and peoples. We have incredible art and culture, fabulous cities, incredible food and drink, and the jewel of the Mediterranean and all that it has inspired, from Greek democracy to the artists of Spain. We have skiing in the Alps and a surfer’s paradise on the west coast of Ireland. We have Airbus and BMW, Stripe and Mytaxi, GDPR and the Eurovision. The world’s happiest country – Finland – is part of the EU, so why can’t we learn from them and use their strategies across the European Union?
We can and should build a fabulous future for the people of Europe and the world. Europe has been a shining beacon – reflecting what is best about humanity – at many times in her past. We can and must aspire to again being that beacon. We must get past Brexit quickly, so we can again be proud of what we have achieved. And we should make it clear to everyone that the best is yet to come.
Get out and vote in the European Parliament election, May 2019. Cast your vote for the parties that will work to deliver on these ideals.
Interestingly, the 12-starred flag has never been officially adopted as the flag of the EU. Rather, it was kind of inherited from the EC. The flag also represents the quite separate Council of Europe, which has 47 member states including Russia and Turkey. Go figure.
Hi, my name is Gary J Byrnes, and I am the founder of Readathriller.com. My thrillers are global bestsellers and cover topics from 9/11 to Nazis, and much in between. I’m currently working on a thriller about a pilot who’s scared of flying, and who is driven to rewrite the history of humankind. My stories have topped Amazon and iTunes book charts, and are popular everywhere, channel links below.
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You’d think, wouldn’t you, that Ireland is a bastion of liberal humanism, not at all isolated and insular out there on Europe’s western fringe, but a cosmopolitan, secular, fun place to be. You think?
Let’s get the story straight. Ireland has gay marriage, yes. We legalised contraception so long ago, in 1980! And homosexuality was decriminalised (thanks to David Norris and the European Convention on Human Rights) all the way back in 1993. That’s, like, the last century, people! We gave women control over their bodies by legalising abortion in 2018. Yes, 2018. We even have a tax on plastic bags. But on top of all the good stuff we still have the Catholic Church’s poisonous, sweaty fingers all over our Constitution, our schools and our healthcare. Religion’s toxic grip left a legacy including child abuse on a biblical scale, division with Northern Ireland’s hardcore Protestants, and politicians who have bent the knee to the Pope on virtually all matters of state. The halcyon days were back in the 1930s, when Eamon de Valera built a proto-fascist Catholic serfdom, while the political party that now runs Ireland – Fine Gael – even sent Blueshirts to Spain to fight for Franco.
Ireland’s police force was formed by the same guy who led Ireland’s fascists to Spain, and has since had to deal with terror campaigns across the island by the IRA, Protestant paramilitaries and the British Government (Dublin/Monaghan bombings, 1974, link below), as well as the non-political terror of drug cartels, paedophiles and corrupt bankers and politicians. They’re kept busy. On top of the over-stretched police force, we have a mostly-colonial prison system that’s bursting at the seams, and typically succeeds at turning young offenders into adult offenders.
Ireland’s billion euro drug market
With illegal drug sales worth at least €1 billion annually in Ireland, recreational cannabis accounts for a market worth €700 million here, with cocaine second at around €200 million. Meanwhile, the global market for medical cannabis is projected to be worth $44 billion by 2024, with the total (legal) cannabis market to be worth $146 billion by 2025, with the market for industrial hemp products to be worth around $10 billion by then. There are clearly enormous opportunities for job creation, new product development and green industry. Add the fact that hemp/cannabis absorbs 10 tons of CO2 per acre grown, and this is a green, sustainable industry, which can also displace many oil-derived products, worth many billions of euro.
More murders in Dublin’s drug wars as Irish Government considers limited liberalisation of cannabis law
Dublin is the centre of Ireland’s illegal drug trade, and there are gang-related murders almost daily. Dublin’s murder rate is one of the highest in Europe, higher than London or Paris, for example. This billion euro market is beyond the law. Current policing and penal approaches simply don’t work. If anything, the drug wars are getting worse.
The Irish Government should take this opportunity to face down the conservative forces that would prefer a populace sozzled on alcohol, and take an enlightened approach to cannabis, learning from the experience of places like Colorado, California and Canada, where cannabis is fully legalized and controlled by the state.
Here are 5 enlightened things the Irish Government can do regarding cannabis
1. Freedom of choice. Have an adult conversation about legal and illegal drugs, and the influences that history, culture and social change have had on our current legal and penal system. Consider that some people might prefer cannabis to alcohol, and this choice does no harm to anybody else.
2. Make possession of cannabis for personal use legal. This should include the freedom to grow cannabis is a safe environment. Further, all recorded convictions for simple possession should be expunged, and the police, courts and prisons should apologise for wasting so much time and resources on so petty an offence.
3. No point going Dutch, as we need to remove the drug gangs’ main source of income. State-licensed cannabis cultivators and retailers can deliver a better product at a cheaper price than criminal gangs. A single compliance network will allow for monitoring of effects on health and society. Bonus: tax on cannabis can generate huge sums for the Government (California has a 15% excise tax on cannabis sales, on top of local taxes and cultivator tax).
4. We can explore the enormous medical potential of cannabis and industrial hemp. THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive) are chemical compounds found in varying levels in cannabis and its sister plant, hemp. Together and separately, these compounds are now accepted by western medicine as helpful for people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, MS and more. The truth is, we don’t fully understand cannabis’s medical potential. But ‘big pharma’ is already in on the act. Let’s fully legalise medical cannabis, so that we can throw off the 1930s shackles that have hindered medical research, and lead the way in sharing new treatments with the world.
5. Cannabis is the largest source of revenue for drug gangs that also sell cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. By legalising the trade in cannabis, the market for upselling heroin dries up. International criminal networks supply much of the product sold in Ireland, and they typically throw in a few guns with deliveries. This kind of makes drug turf wars inevitable. We need to break the cycle.
So, what’s next? Let’s be brave. Let’s embrace change, equality and freedom of choice, while building a safer society and a sustainable economy. This is why Ireland should legalise and regulate cannabis now.
Ireland exported a staggering 160,000 live male calves to Europe in 2018
The Guardian reports on the secret filming of unweaned male calves (cows) being treated with cruelty and disdain as they were transported from Ireland to the Netherlands for slaughter as veal. The mistreatment of animals in Europe’s factory farming model, and the horrendous practises of the dairy industry are truths that we prefer to ignore as we drink our cow’s lactation (designed for calves, not humans!) and chomp down on a burger that’s probably made from the flesh of a dozen animals, not all of them cows. The whole system is actually horrendous, when you think about.
EU factory farm subsidies – the horror!
41% of the EU’s €137 billion annual budget (2017) is given to farmers as handouts. So Europe funds the cruel live animal trade, while propping up the dairy sector that produces all those unwanted male calves, in a subsidy system that favours industrial-scale farming. Besides the justified ethical concern that we as Europeans are subsidising cruelty in factory farms across the EU, we are also helping industrial farming be a major contributor to climate change, greenhouse gases and plastic waste. Ireland’s agriculture sector contributes over a third of the country’s GHG emissions, and there is no hope of EU reduction targets being met in 2020. Or even 2030. Our track record is abysmal.
Top 3 ways the EU can fix agriculture, improve animal welfare and cut GHG emissions
Short of banning live exports, which would be ideal, there should be a distance limit, say 200km. Livestock producers should be encouraged (maybe with those infamous subsidies?) to slaughter animals locally, adding value to the local economy, then exporting finished meat products. Or, better still, sell the meat locally also.
Consider the impact that Europe’s huge herds of cows, pigs and sheep have on our greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture should be carbon-neutral and if that means shifting our tastes away from animal meat, so be it.
Live animal exports to countries outside the EU should be banned completely and immediately. If EU-based companies treat animals with such cruelty as we have witnessed, what chance of welfare do animals have in places like Saudi Arabia, where even humans are treated with contempt? No chance.
Top 3 ways you can help end live export cruelty and agriculture’s impact on climate change
When buying meat, always try to identify its source. If it came from another country – let alone another continent – refuse to buy it. Old-school butcher shops often rear and process their animals nearby, treating them better than any factory farm, and you can taste the difference.
Lobby your MEP, especially with the upcoming elections front of mind. See if you can turn even one MEP against live exports (email a link to this article!). That could make a real difference.
Meat-free alternatives are actually fab. There’s a lot of product development going into animal-free ‘meat’ that tastes as good as the real thing, with less saturated fat, growth hormones, antibiotics etc. Also, do you still drink cow’s milk? If so, you need to stop immediately. It’s just too weird. Hemp milk is awesome and there are some absolutely gorgeous oat and coconut/almond milks available widely. Take your breakfast cereal to the next level!
Learn more about EU agriculture, live export cruelty and GHG emissions from livestock…
Gary J Byrnes’s latest thriller, United Hates, is now available in print from Amazon. Print-on-demand is so much better for the environment and Readathriller will plant hemp for every book sold. Win/win!
Art and food collide in New York
New York City. Today. A cannibal serial killer is on the loose and art expert Jacob is on his menu. Can chef Sophie help Jacob, or will their history get in the way? Will a Nazi plot to launch the Fourth Reich, creating the United Hates of America, succeed? Or can Sophie save Jacob and the world? Start this thrilling story by number one bestselling author Gary J Byrnes and you will not put it down until you reach the impossibly tense finale.
Nazis and the dollar
As World War 2 draws to a bitter end, US forces spirit the top Nazi rocket scientists to America in Operation Paperclip. Hidden among the geniuses who built the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles is the most horrendous of all Nazis, Dr Death. Even by Hitler’s standards, this man is off the scale of inhumanity. With a horde of stolen art treasures, Dr Death builds the Fourth Reich in New York City. With America’s economy faltering, and the debt cycle reaching its limit, the Nazis move. Their aim is control of the US dollar.
Welcome to the United Hates.
Now save the world
Buy the thriller and save the world. Hemp will also be planted for each digital purchase.
When Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg decided that she couldn’t wait for the adults to take climate change for the existential threat that it is, and started a school strike to draw attention to the issue, did she imagine the scale of what would come? It was a truly impressive butterfly effect to see schools across Ireland close early so that 10,000 students of all ages could converge on the houses of parliament in Dublin, with dozens more protests across the country.
System change not climate change
In time with a deep drumbeat, the good-natured crowd marched in spring sunshine, from St Stephen’s Green, down Dawson St, and took over all of Molesworth St in front of the Dail, Ireland’s houses of parliament (yes, we kept the British colonial structure after independence in 1921). The placards were many, with some catchy slogans used again and again: There is no planet B. System change not climate change. Even this: F$ck climate change.
The students have called on the Irish Government to declare a climate emergency and have issued a list of six demands to lawmakers:
A transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and a pledge to leave all Irish fossil fuels in the ground.
A climate emergency declaration – including a national information campaign.
A socially fair transition to a carbon-neutral society, preventing need for regular citizens to carry the economic burden.
Brexit is coming on fast, the language around it finally coming to the core truths: war, Hitler, God, blood, the Blitz, the landed gentry and Dad’s Army. It would be funny if it wasn’t so cuntish, the whole, stupid, unnecessary thing. The same can be said of Ireland’s history, especially the hundreds of years spent under British rule, of which the lowlight was the famine of 1845-49, which saw around a million Irish peasants starve to death. Literally. Britain’s involvement in Ireland’s affairs could be described as a tragic comedy, and the current Brexit conundrum is just the latest chapter.
One hilarious part is how the DUP, a fringe political party from Northern Ireland, is propping up Theresa May’s zombie Conservative government in a real case of the tail wagging the dog. The DUP represents a tired, religious world view, is against equality, and takes the Bible kind of literally. Which is never good. Also, the people of Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU, so why is the DUP refusing to represent the people? The DUP’s control of HMS Brexit is theoretical democracy at its absolute worst and Arlene Foster and Ian Paisley (the junior) are at the helm, steering directly at a great big iceberg.
The European Union also has problems, like its member monarchies and autocracies, the bank bailouts that foisted massive debt on EU citizens, and lack of a relevant Big Idea for Europe. The original EU big idea was that by uniting Europe’s nations states politically and economically, Europe won’t start World War 3, and make it three in a row. That’s on top of Europe’s long, long history of colonialism, slavery and religious genocide. So, not starting WW3 is the goal, and I’m fine with that. But we can easily make the EU better. Let’s call it as it is, and be clear that containing Germany was the main goal. Germany is now a leader in many positive ways, and is not going to start a war, so we need a new big idea.
And I don’t remember ever having seen the names Juncker or Tusk on a ballot paper.
But, Brexit? What does that mean?
It truth, a lot of Brexit is about the creation of Europe and the modern world out of the ashes of World War 2. Sadly, Europe is at a dangerous crossroads, with the wounds caused by Brexit oozing the pus that feeds an army of neo-fascists who want the whole thing to fall down. Could a collapse of the EU lead to the World War 3 that this was all supposed to prevent? Maybe. And that maybe should be enough to send a shiver down every sane person’s spine. In this post, I will do my best to explain the motivations behind the bewildering decisions of the key players, then present my 5 point plan to save Europe.
Brexit by the playas and numbers, it’s like a bad trip
Ireland aka Republic of Ireland – A separate country from the UK (see below). Ireland won independence from the UK in 1921, when a border was drawn to separate Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK to this day. Leader is Leo Varadkar, a young buck with a penchant for a facade of social liberalism, while leading a political party that’s so conservative, it even had a fascist period in the 1930s (Fine Gael still gets queasy at mention of Eoin O’Duffy and the Blueshirts). Capital city is Dublin, famous for hospitality and tech. In process of social evolution after decades in the grip of the Catholic Church. Watch for mass graves of orphanage children, homelessness and opiate addiction, rugby, ‘the craic’, and property crashes.
Northern Ireland – A puppet statelet, typically under direct rule from London and with a small economy, dependent on subsidies from London. Sound as a pound! Capital city, Belfast, is famed for the Titanic. Indeed, Brexit is very much a case of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, as we are all transfixed by its stupidness while the very real, existential threats facing Europe and the world are ignored. Much of Game of Thrones is made in Northern Ireland, and that draws hordes of tourists. Cha-ching. Watch for flag-waving, rally driving, Orangemen, the occasional bomb, and theme parks.
UK aka United Kingdom – Technically, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the ugly offspring of the Acts of Union of 1800. Currently includes England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. Population 66 million. Capital, London, is a global cultural beacon while also home to billions belonging to Russian businessmen and petrochemical families. Watch for pro- and anti-Brexit protests outside the House of Commons, ‘Blitz spirit’, Russian spies and oligarchs, Middle Eastern money, and Pret a Manger.
EU – European Union, a block of 28 states, working together to promote liberal values, free trade and human rights. Winston Churchill was among the European leaders who put the foundations of the European Coal and Steel Community together in 1950. It grew and evolved, Ireland and the United Kingdom both joining in 1973. Population 512.6 million, the world’s largest trading bloc. Includes Romania and Hungary. And a lot more. Trust me, a lot. Kind of capital is Brussels in Belgium. Europe is not liked for colonialism, religious crusades and Nazis. On the plus side, European democracy, art, culture, food, wine, beaches, low air fares and liberal outlook mean it is still the centre of the world. But Brexit could tear it apart. European Parliament elections in May 2019 will be worth getting out the vote for, as the rise of far-right autocrats across Europe is feared. Genuinely. Watch for populists, gilets jaunes, Russian spies, Brie, wine, and Islamic State.
Conservative Party aka Tories – The establishment political party that rules the UK, supports monarchy, class and religion. A long and bloody history. Opposition Labour Party under St. Jeremy just started to give direction, proposing that the UK stay in customs union with the EU, which is perfectly reasonable. What if Sinn Fein took their 7 Westminster seats (they’re currently boycotting, of course!) and united the smaller parties behind Labour and against the Tory/DUP coalition?
DUP – Democratic Unionist Party, a pro-UK political party, founded by the Reverend Ian Paisley. Staunchly Unionist, Protestant, pro-monarchist, anti-Catholic, big fans of King William of Orange, the Dutchman who became King of Britain after defeating deposed King James VII at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (pictured below). The DUP won 292,316 votes in the UK’s 2017 election, or 0.9%. This gave the DUP 10 seats in the House of Commons, the UK Parliament.
Sinn Fein – The pro-united Ireland, ‘Catholic’ political party with representation in both Northern Ireland (7 seats in the House of Commons, which they boycott) and Ireland (21 seats in the Dail, where Leo Varadkar’s ruling conservative party, Fine Gael, has 49 seats). Ably led by Mary Lou McDonald, who has called for a referendum on Irish unity.
Good Friday Agreement – This needs bullet points.
Signed between the UK and Ireland in 1998.
Required the removal of British Army and customs checks along the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Was designed to make the border fade away.
The IRA promised to end their campaign of terrorism and disband, which they did.
The British to allow the unification of Ireland, if a majority in Northern Ireland ever votes for it.
This text is part of the Agreement (get the Tipp-ex!): “Wishing to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union;” All very positive. And it led to the removal of multiple British Army military fortifications along the border.
Brexit – The UK voted on leaving the EU back in 2016. Seems like so long ago now. Northern Ireland, Scotland and London were the only regions to vote stay, the irony! It was the Labour Party’s heartland, the north-east of England that swung it for leave, as illustrated starkly by the map below.
British PM and leader of the Conservative Party, Theresa May, was against Brexit, but since she took over from hapless David Cameron, displays an almost religious zeal in ‘seeing it through’. She triggered the countdown without having an exit plan in place. That’s why Britain leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 without a deal in place (as of 11pm, 17 Feb, 2019). A no-deal Brexit means chaos, pure and simple. It will mess up the lives of the people of Britain, Ireland and the EU, certainly. But no-deal will send shockwaves around the world, pleasing only people like Putin and Rees-Mogg. (Shudders.)
36% – The share of the Northern Ireland vote won by the DUP in the 2017 election.
0.9% – The share of the United Kingdom vote won by the DUP in the 2017 election.
51.9% – The share of the total UK vote to leave the EU, for Brexit.
55.8% – The share of the Northern Ireland vote to remain in the EU, against Brexit. The DUP campaigned for Brexit. Ireland was not involved in the Brexit vote.
Backstop – What is this backstop of which you speak? This is not the backstop you’re looking for. It’s behind that hedge over there. In this reality, the backstop is an insurance policy. If the UK doesn’t manage to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU that doesn’t require border customs checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, then Northern Ireland stays in the EU Customs Union. The DUP fears that this will mean a de facto united Ireland. The Conservatives couldn’t care less, and if the DUP didn’t hold the balance of power in Westminster, the backstop would have been quietly adopted. Teresa May’s decision to hold an election in 2017 was a serious miscalculation.
My 5 point plan to save Europe
Get Sinn Fein to dump abstentionism, take their 7 Westminster seats, then vote with Labour and the other smaller parties (except the DUP, lol) to get rid of Teresa May’s zombie Conservative government, then go for a soft brexit with the UK remaining part of the European Customs Union. A people’s vote on the deal on offer might be useful. Let’s face it, things change, people change their opinions, and many who voted for Brexit back in 2016 are now dead.
Turn the entire island of Ireland into a free trade zone, a halfway house between the UK, US and EU.
Continue to improve Ireland, with real progress on housing, social equality and a future economy that doesn’t rely on US tech companies avoiding tax elsewhere. Fine Gael, the current ruling party, represents farmers, landlords and conservatism, so is unlikely to be able to achieve significant economic development. In time, we should aim for a vote on unification, but make that vote open to all who live on this island.
Turn the governance of the EU upside down, with more participative decision-making by the entire EU electorate and less control by the unelected commissioners and Eurocrats. The EU must get tough on fascists, and stop treating taxpayers with disgust, especially in countries like Ireland and Greece. The fat cats ruined it for everyone, yet they got away with everything.
What does Europe stand for? Liberalism? Equality? Social justice? I’m not sure anymore. Are you? Let’s get our shit together and decide, actually take on these enormous decisions for ourselves. The politicians have failed us, all of them. There must be a better EU, with a new Big Idea. There has to be, or we are fucked.
Backstory: A brief history of Ireland
As Brexit Britain brazenly becomes a Shakespearean tragedy, the question of what to do about the border in Ireland has been the dealbreaker. This is funny, ironic and sad, all at the same time. To understand why, a quick review of the history of Ireland is in order. (Takes deep breath.)
In a nutshell, Ireland’s history is: warring tribes, St Patrick, warring tribes, Vikings, warring tribes, Normans, warring tribes, King Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, King William of Orange, Easter 1916, Independence, European Union, warring tribes, the EU, an end to tribal warfare, the decline of the Catholic Church, and social advancement…
No real recorded history of Dublin until the Vikings sailed up the River Liffey in the 9th century. Ireland at that time was populated by a lot of Celtic tribes constantly at war with each other, St Patrick having converted some of the pagans to Christianity in the second half of the 5th century. Then the Vikings came over from Denmark, said ‘Hej’ and that was that. They liked Dublin because it was a good spot for catching salmon and handy for grabbing and exporting slaves. They made their bases at rivermouths across Ireland, including at Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Cork and Galway – all Ireland’s current cities, basically.
Dublin’s name in Irish is Dubhlinn, meaning ‘black pool’, which may derive from a deep river pool where salmon gathered. The original Viking settlement is at a place called Wood Quay, just upriver (on the south bank) from the quaint Ha’penny Bridge, past U2’s Clarence Hotel and now the location for the bunker-like offices of Dublin City Council (the original Viking origins of Dublin were dug up and skipped to make way for these horrible offices). The Vikings did annoy the locals, (something to do with the slave trade, perhaps) so a warrior called Brian Boru, from Killaloe, Co Clare, became the first to unite the Irish tribes against a common enemy. Boru’s army defeated the Vikings in the Battle of Clontarf on Dublin’s north city coastline in 1014. But Boru was killed in the aftermath of the battle. Ouch.
The Norman invasion began in 1169, commanded by Henry II. The Pope at the time gave Henry dominion over the “barbarous nation” of Ireland so that its “filthy practices” may be abolished, its Church brought into line, and that the Irish pay theirtax to Rome. The Normans ruled the roost, mixing with the locals,until King Henry VIII decided to reconquer Ireland in 1566. The mainly Catholic Irish peasantry were never treated well and there was the occasional rebellion and famine, with Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, bringing about Catholic emancipation in 1829. Dublin’s main street, and the bridge leading from it to the southside, is named after O’Connell, as is the main street of virtually every town in Ireland. The Great Irish Famine of 1845-49 was a major event, with over a million starving to death. Dublin was largely insulated from the Famine, as the seat of British power, the centre of a defended coastal strip called The Pale, its citadel Dublin Castle. The Pale gave us the expression ‘Beyond the Pale’, meaning something weird and bizarre. Dubliners call people from outside the city ‘culchies’ or ‘boggers’ while country people call Dubliners ‘Jackeens’ because they loved to fly the ‘Union Jack’ flag in deference to the British rulers. So there you have it.
But the drive for independence continued, with the Easter Rising, a mainly Dublin event, beginning on 24 April, 1916. Led by Padraig Pearse and the Irish Volunteers, it lasted for six days with much of the action taking place around the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street. The rebellion was crushed and its leaders executed in Kilmainham Gaol. This outraged the Irish and a War of Independence was launched in 1919. Led by Michael Collins, it was intelligence-led, used innovative guerrilla tactics, and brought about independence in 1921. But Ireland was partitioned, Ulster remaining part of the United Kingdom, and this caused a brutal Civil War, which ended in 1922. A bitter taste remains and Ireland’s political landscape is still described as ‘Civil War politics’. Neil Jordan’s film Michael Collins is an excellent evocation of the period.
Pearse and Collins are revered as heroes (de Valera less so), with many streets and buildings around Dublin named after them. But we owe Britain a great deal, including our love of the language, the finest architecture in Dublin, a key emigration destination and a strong bond between the peoples.
Dublin is capital of a broken nation, an utterly bankrupt economy, and a people with little faith in the inbred political class that caused the spectacular collapse, which began in 2008. There is a general sense of malaise and despondency and a visible urban decay in vacant retail units, derelict office blocks and so-called ghost housing estates. There has also been a noticeable increase in beggars, vagrants and homeless people on the city streets,exactly while the world’s tech companies flock to the city’s docklands to locate their European HQs. Dublin people remain among the friendliest and best-mannered on Earth and are very welcoming.
Still less than a hundred years old, Ireland today is all about the contrasts, widespread poverty around bubbles of a shiny future, positive social change but the Catholic Church still in control of most schools and hospitals, and a populace enslaved by European bank bailout debt but still viewing the EU as the best hope for a better future. I hope we make it. We deserve to.
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